Police charge Health ministry’s financial controller
POLICE on Wednesday arrested and charged the financial controller of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services in connection to the $10 million that was stolen from the ministry.
Stephen Kido Dalipanda, from Choiseul Province, appeared in the Honiara Magistrate’s Court on 15 counts of false pretences.
He was the third person, and the first senior health official, to be arrested and charged in relation to the $10 million scandal that was first uncovered in 2013.
Police prosecutor David Tepai told a bail hearing yesterday police will alleged Dalipanda fraudulently obtained $7.3 million of the $10 million that went missing from the Ministry of Health.
He also told presiding magistrate Augustine Aulanga the accused approved some payments that were supposed to be approved only by the permanent secretary.
In a police brief the prosecutor submitted to the court, Dalipanda allegedly obtained the $7.3 million between 1 January 2012 and 20 September 2013.
It was alleged that he and other public servants had colluded with John Biliki and Wesley Poloso of Eroba Shipping Service and Joke Shipping Service to defraud the Solomon Islands Government of $7.3 million.
Previous court hearings found Eroba Shipping Service and Joke Shipping Service were fake companies registered specifically to defraud the ministry of its funds.
Police alleged that on 15 occasions, Dalipanda fabricated invoices for freighting and claims were submitted under the fake shipping companies Eroba Shipping and Joke Shipping without the provision of services.
Dalipanda allegedly certified and authorized payments on purchase requisition supposed to be signed by the Director of Policy and Planning and the Permanent Secretary respectively.
It was further alleged that when the payments were ready, they were deposited into the Bank of South Pacific (BSP) accounts of the fake shipping companies.
The money was then withdrawn and shared among them.
While taxi driver Poloso, who was referred to as a “toy-boy” was already convicted and jailed for two and a half years in 2014 for receiving $1.5 million of the fund, Biliki’s case is still pending before the court.
Biliki faces 14 counts of false pretence, 15 counts of money laundering, and 15 counts of uttering.
Dalipanda was released on a $15,000 cash bail, with strict conditions, yesterday.
These include not to enter the premises of the Ministry of Health and Medical or contact any staff/witnesses of the case indirectly or directionally, not to leave Guadalcanal Province, not to commit further offences and to must always appear in court on future dates.
Dalipanda was also restricted from contacting or entering the premises of Silent World, Blue Ocean, Lagoon Eco, Guadalcanal Electronics and Wesley Timbers.
These companies, according to prosecutor Tepai, are connected to the investigation.
Dalipanda was also not allowed to contact staff or enter the administration office of any hospital, clinic or health centres within Honiara.
The accused is being represented by private lawyer Brian Hiele.
The $10 million scandal was uncovered in 2013 during a normal risk assessment undertaken in the Government’s financial management information system by Finance ministry officials.
In doing so, irregularities were detected in transactions relating to the Health Sector Support Program funded by AusAID.
It was uncovered that government contracts allocated under the health project involved grossly inflated pricing of freight service charges and shipping charters by contractors who were not shipping operators, but merely middle-man shell companies that charged exorbitant margins of around three to four times the normal freight service charges.
Government officials involved have allegedly colluded with contracted service providers to defraud the state.
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN